DREAD & DELIGHT: FAIRY TALES IN AN ANXIOUS WORLD brings together the work of contemporary artists who use classical fairy tales to address the complexities of our lives today. While some embrace the stories’ promises of transformation and happy endings, others plumb the stories’ more troubling elements—poverty, addiction, and exploitations of power.
No matter their approach, each of the artists dismantles and reassembles the tales in imaginative ways. In a 1980s arcade-like video by Ericka Beckman, the story of Cinderella becomes a means to talk about women’s proscribed social roles; in Timothy Horn’s nearly life-size carriage made of crystalized candy, it becomes an opportunity to address queer identity and notions of the so called rags-to-riches American dream. In Alison Saar’s tar and gold-leaf covered sculpture Blonde Dreams, the story of Rapunzel becomes an avenue for reconsidering racial constructions of beauty; in MK Guth’s 1800-foot-long braid Ties of Protection and
Safe Keeping, it becomes the site for a conversation about values and desires.
Many of the fairy tales featured in Dread & Delight will be readily familiar. Others are lesser known and provide an opportunity to explore the rich breadth of the fairy tale tradition. Throughout the exhibition, one finds that the artists have engaged with fairy tales across time—from early Italian, French, and German anthologies; to Walt Disney’s 20th-century animations; to postmodern retellings by authors such Angela Carter and Margaret Atwood. Collectively, they remind us that fairy tales have never been merely children’s tales. Rather, these age-old stories of wonder are powerful tools for making sense of life’s stark—and often dark—realities.
Dread & Delight is accompanied by a scholarly publication charting five decades of fairy tales in the visual arts and featuring a new work of fairy tale fiction by Pulitzer Prize finalist Kelly Link.
Dread & Delight: Fairy Tales in an Anxious World was organized by the Weatherspoon Art Museum at The University of North Carolina, Greensboro and curated by Dr. Emily Stamey. Its presentation in Akron is made possible through the generous support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Ohio Arts Council, The Tom and Marilyn Merryweather Fund, the John P. Murphy Foundation and Buckingham, Doolittle & Burroughs, LLC. Media sponsorship provided by Western Reserve PBS.
Through September 8, 2019
Judith Bear Isroff Gallery
Mernet Larsen (b. 1940) makes intriguing, humor-and tension-infused paintings featuring geometric figures that inhabit space in ways that defy gravity and conventional viewpoints. The artist stages ordinary scenes—people playing cards or eating dinner, a faculty meeting, reading in bed—but constructs them with vertiginous, skewed spatial relationships that convey a sense of precariousness. The disorienting treatment of perspective places the viewer inside and outside of the paintings at the same time, “as if they’re wearing the situation,” the artist describes. Along with the figures’ deadpan facial expressions and subtle body language, Larsen’s puzzling compositions reveal an essence of everyday human interaction. Wry, anxious and awkward, the paintings are frozen monuments that are simultaneously alien and familiar.
Mernet Larsen: The Ordinary, Reoriented is organized by the Akron Art Museum with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Ohio Arts Council.
April 27—October 27, 2019
Fred and Laura Ruth Bidwell Gallery
Joe Vitone: Family Records is an ongoing series of portraits of photographer Joe Vitone’s relatives living in and around Akron, Ohio. Begun in 1998, this body of work documents evolving interper-sonal connections between parents and children, siblings, spouses, cousins and other relations within working class communities of the Rust Belt region. Shot each summer when the artist—now based in Austin, Texas—travels back to Ohio, this series features scenes from festivities such as birthday parties and weddings as well as intimate portraits set outside homes and workplaces. Touched by celebrations and struggles including marriage, divorce, addiction, new homes, unemployment, new jobs and babies, the lives of Vitone’s relatives reflect experiences common to families across the United States.
Joe Vitone: Family Records is organized by the Akron Art Museum with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Ohio Arts Council and the Char and Chuck Fowler Family Foundation.